MEET THE TEAM
Get to know Team WITS
As Chief Executive Officer, Tena oversees the financial growth and strategic implementation of WITS programs, the largest provider of literacy services to Chicago public elementary schools. Formerly as WITS’ Chief Strategy Officer, she oversaw the doubling of individual giving and development of sustainable funding practices. Over 10 years, she has held leadership roles in a variety of Chicago non-profits, with majority being in the education and youth development space. Tena has served as Assistant Director of Corporate Development at the University of Chicago – Booth School of Business, Director of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training Program, and Regional Director at Up2Us Sports. Before moving to Chicago she was a Development Officer at Wayne State University, where she also received both her BA in Public Relations and MBA in Marketing and Management.
Kristen is responsible for creating and implementing evaluation processes for WITS programs that track impact on all key stakeholders. Kristen formerly worked for the Academy of Urban School Leadership as a math tutor in Humboldt Park. She graduated from Roosevelt University with a BA in Journalism. She served two years with City Year at an elementary school in Englewood.
As WITS Chief Development Officer, Ashley Bloom fosters a culture of philanthropy and ensures that fund development strategies are executed in keeping with the WITS values, vision, and mission. She takes pride in building relationships with WITS supporters and leading the development team to achieve its goals. Ashley has worked over a decade in fundraising, holding positions at American Cancer Society, Food Allergy Research & Education, and The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Ashley's passion for the WITS mission is driven by her toddler's love for reading. They enjoy experiencing the diverse world of kids lit together during bedtime read alouds.
After facilitating WITS programs for three years, Elizabeth now shares WITS’ story by writing grant proposals, conducting prospect research, and cultivating strong relationships with those who are equally committed to inspiring Chicago Public Schools students to be lifelong readers and learners. Prior to joining WITS, she worked as an arts administrator and teaching artist at Emerald City Theatre and Seattle Children’s Theatre. Elizabeth holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dramaturgy from The Theatre School at DePaul University, where she focused on theatre for youth and new play development. Outside of WITS, Elizabeth enjoys trying new recipes, reading, and exploring our wonderful city with her husband John and son Eoin.
Alex Michel, Development Director
As Development Director, Alex cultivates and develops strategies for corporate partnerships and plans and executes WITS annual events, including the Blackboard Affair gala. Alex also leads the WITS Associates Board in their initiatives to raise money and support WITS programming. She graduated with a BA in Art History from Denison University.
Jesse Altman, Program Coordinator
As a program coordinator, Jesse oversees 8 different literacy programs across Chicago, serving students K-8 and managing relationships with corporate partners, volunteers, and school administrators to ensure WITS students are receiving the highest quality programming possible. Prior to WITS, Jesse served in the Peace Corps in Morocco, working with youth to develop their leadership skills, learn English, and grow as individuals through a variety of programs. He received his BA from Tufts University in Boston in International Relations and Economics. Jesse has loved reading since he was a kid and particularly enjoys the fantastical world that Haruki Murakami creates in his books. He enjoys reading, rock climbing, and camping, to name a few things.
Laurie Brooks, Program Manager, WITSK & ECSP
In her role as Program Manager for WITS Kindergarten and Early Childhood Summer Program, Laurie is responsible for developing, refining, and monitoring the content of these programs to drive outcomes. She provides ongoing literacy, behavior management, and social emotional coaching and training for staff to activate with students and volunteers. In addition, Laurie helps to produce workshops, coach teacher study groups, and support teachers within the Rochelle Lee Teacher Award (RLTA), WITS’ teacher professional development program.
Before joining the WITS team, she taught students in grades PreK-3rd in Chicago Public School classrooms for 7 years. It was there that she was also afforded the opportunity to support and train colleagues and parents on topics like child development, play integration, and her favorite, social emotional teaching and learning. Laurie received her Master’s in Education from the University of Chicago's Urban Teacher Education Program, as well as a BA and MA in Sociology from the University of Illinois at Urbana- Champaign. Currently, she lives on the Northside of Chicago with my feisty bearded dragon, Spike, a former classroom pet that she adopted.
Shawn is an experienced educator who knows that supporting our school communities requires thoughtful planning and consideration of all students’ identities and needs. As Program Manager of Mid-Day Mentoring, he designs intentional and student-focused curriculum, guides and assists team members, and facilitates volunteer literacy mentorship programs for pre-k through 8th grade students. Through his work, he also leads professional development and partners with CPS teachers and administrators. Prior to his time at WITS, Shawn was a learning behavior specialist and high school reading teacher for students with diverse needs. Shawn has acquired a Masters in Special Education from Dominican University, BA in Philosophy, Law and Society from American University, and is first aid and mandated reporter certified.
Delaney Earley, Program Coordinator
As a Program Coordinator, Delaney builds relationships with volunteers, corporate partners, and school administrators throughout Chicago to provide high-quality literacy programming to WITS students. Before joining the WITS Team, Delaney served at City Year Chicago, where she was a tutor and mentor to 3rd and 4th grade students on the South Side of the city. She graduated from Washington University in St. Louis with a BA in Urban Studies and was excited to return home to Chicago to cheer on the White Sox in person, and spend time with family and friends. The Harry Potter series sparked her love for reading at a young age, and she continues to enjoy a wide variety of literature.
Annie brings over a decade of nonprofit and youth development experience to her role at WITS. As Program Manager, Workplace Mentoring, she designs engaging content and curriculum and facilitates literacy mentorship programming for pre-K through 8th grade students and their mentors. Prior to joining WITS, she worked at the University of Michigan School of Social Work, where she supported graduate students as they completed their community-based field placements. Annie holds an MSW in Management of Human Services from the University of Michigan and a BA in Fiction Writing from Columbia College Chicago.
Sara is a Chicago native and has loved reading ever since she discovered the magical world of books as a young child. Before joining WITS, she interned at Open Books coordinating a literacy program for 3rd grade students and served at City Year Chicago in a 4th/5th grade ELA classroom, both which sparked her passion to support CPS students on their literacy journeys. Sara coordinates 9 volunteer powered programs across the city and loves working with a variety of students and volunteers every day. You can find her hanging out with her dog, running along the lake, or re-reading the Harry Potter series in her free time.
Tra’Lisha coordinates WITS student literacy programs, acts as a liaison between our partner schools and our community and corporate volunteers, and is responsible for reconstructing the WITS Mid-Day mentoring journal to align with Common Core Standards. Tra’Lisha holds a BA in English from Dominican University and an MA in Organizational Leadership from Lewis University. Prior to coordinating programs, she held AmeriCorps positions with organizations such as Jumpstart and City Year Chicago. During her free time, Tra’Lisha enjoys boxing, playing her guitar, and photography.
Daphne Robinson, Program Manager, RLTA
As the Program Manager for the Rochelle Lee Teacher Award, Daphne designs and implements the Summer Institute Professional Development series for teachers. Daphne recruits and build relationships with teachers and other educators to ensure robust study group recruitment. She manages WITS' relationship with the Illinois State Board of Education to ensure CPDUs processes are up to date. Daphne is a former RLTA awardee, and participates in the alumni book club. Daphne received a BA in Theology and Italian from Loyola University Chicago, a Master of Science in Journalism from Roosevelt University, a Master of Arts in Teaching from Roosevelt University and Middle School Endorsement from Roosevelt University. Daphne loves to read.
As Program Director, Ellen cultivates school and corporate relationships, oversees program design and quality control, and manages the WITS library and WITSummer Books initiatives. Ellen formerly served with Christopher House, focusing on adult literacy programs. She earned her BA in English from DePaul University.
MARKETING & COMMUNICATIONS TEAM
Kellie develops and manages all aspects of the WITS marketing strategy. This includes website development, creation of all assets for campaigns, as well as all video production for WITS programs. Kellie graduated with a BA in General Fine Arts from the Maryland Institute College of Art and a MFA in Painting and Drawing from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Kellie is a practicing artist and has participated in programming at major museums, including The High Museum of Art in Atlanta, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, and The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C. Kellie has also shown in galleries both nationally and internationally.